Syria’s ‘shameful betrayal’ for Palestinians

 Jan 18, 2014  | By Finian 


For many Palestinians today the conflict in Syria is a source of deep shame. This is because large numbers of Palestinian men have joined the ranks of the foreign-backed extremists trying to destabilize the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad.

The covert war of regime change in Syria, sponsored by the US and other NATO powers along with Saudi Arabia and Israel, has caused as many as 130,000 deaths and over nine million displaced persons – 40 per cent of the Syrian population.

Since the conflict began in mid-March 2011, largely fomented by these foreign forces, the estimated damage to Syria’s social infrastructure is put at a colossal $100 billion.

To put that last figure into perspective, this week’s UN appeal for humanitarian aid to Syria – the biggest ever such appeal – managed to raise a comparatively paltry $2.4 billion.

In a word, Syria has been devastated. And for Palestinians this is a cause of acute anguish.

Like many Arab and non-Arab countries, including the US, Canada, Britain and France, mercenaries from the Palestinian territories have flocked to Syria to join the much-distorted “jihad” which Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf monarchies are bankrolling.

It is estimated, according to the Financial Times and other sources, that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have funnelled more than $9 billion into Syria over the past three years to pay wages and supply weapons to the extremist brigades, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic Front.

Ironically, for the UN humanitarian appeal for Syria, held in Kuwait earlier this week, both Saudi Arabia and Qatar pledged a combined total of $120 million.

In other words, these two Persian Gulf monarchies have spent 75 times more on fuelling conflict and destruction in Syria than what they are now pledging in “humanitarian assistance”.

In Syria, the dominant anti-government militants share the same fundamentalist Wahhabi ideology of the Persian Gulf monarchies, and they have varying affiliation with Al Qaeda. They are also aligned with the extreme Salafist fringes of the Muslim Brotherhood.

This ideological spectrum has drawn in factions of the Hamas movement in Palestine, which has traditional links with the Muslim Brotherhood and more recently has been the recipient of aid donations totalling some $200 million from the Qatari royal rulers.

Why is this particularly shameful for Palestinians? Well, of all the Arab countries that have provided humanitarian aid and solidarity to the Palestinians down through the decades perhaps none has been as loyal and self-sacrificing in its fraternal help than the Syrian Arab Republic.

From the Zionist Nakba massacres against the Palestinians in 1948 until the present day, Syria has received millions of Palestinian refugees with open arms. The country is believed to host the biggest exiled Palestinian population in whole the region.

One of the largest Palestinian communities in Syria is at the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus where some 20,000 live. But, as political analyst Christof Lehmann points out, the term “refugee camp” is misleading. This is because the Palestinian residents have always been granted full Syrian citizenship and civil rights. “Yarmouk is more of an ordinary suburb of Damascus,” notes Lehmann, “but it has a technical status of refugee camp under Syrian and international law.” This is a measure of the traditional hospitality bestowed on the Palestinian Diaspora inside Syria.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Palestinian factions within the Yarmouk district have allowed the foreign-backed
extremists of Jabhat al Nusra and others to infiltrate and occupy large swathes.

“Half of Yarmouk has been overrun by Jabhat al Nusrah and some other Al Qaeda brigades, as well as some small Muslim Brotherhood brigades,”
says Lehmann. “Sadly, Hamas has been playing a role in this through a recruitment campaign among young Palestinians to join the anti-government forces in Syria.”

The analyst says that this occupation by Al Qaeda brigades has led to a dire humanitarian situation in Yarmouk, where residents are suffering from severe chronic shortages of food and medicines. Several dozen civilians are believed to have died from deprivation caused directly by the siege.

Anti-government factions within Yarmouk blame the Syrian army for the blockade and they claim it is being used as a tactic to force submission. This narrative has been zealously amplified by the Western media as a way of discrediting the Assad government.

But many observers say that it is the foreign-backed militants who are holding the Yarmouk residents as hostages and as human shields. This week a UN aid convoy of food trying to enter the area was turned back when it came under fire from gunmen believed to be from the militant side.

This view was echoed by Palestinian Labour Minister Ahmad Majdalani who this week visited the Yarmouk area. Majdalani warned of a dire humanitarian unfolding among the residents because of the ongoing blockade. He blamed the foreign-backed insurgents. “The source of fire [on the aid convoy] was known... to be controlled by Al Nusra Front, Ahrar al Sham and Suqur al-Golan,” said Majdalani.

Some of the bad blood between the Assad government and radical Salafists stems from a period of bloody repression in the mid-1980s against Muslim Brotherhood insurgents carried out by Bashar al Assad’s father, the late Hafez al Assad.

Nevertheless, that baleful episode must be set against more than six decades of unstinting solidarity afforded to the Palestinian people by the Syrian state.

The central fact is that the historical plight of the Palestinian people in Syria and beyond has come at the hands of Western-backed Zionist aggression. In contrast to Syria, the oil-rich Saudi regime has been derelict in its support to the Palestinian cause and refugees in particular.

Syria today is living through a nightmare aggression inflicted by Washington and its imperialist allies, including Israel and Saudi
Arabia. That factions of Palestinians have joined cause with the imperialist axis bearing down on Syria is a shameful betrayal of Syria for many other Palestinians, both in the Middle East and around the world.


Unmasking the Muslim Brotherhood: Syria, Egypt, and Beyond

The complexities of the Arab Spring and the struggle for political freedom throughout the Arab world should not obscure what has now become an absolutely essential understanding for all anti-imperialists: the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the most powerful weapons of the Western ruling class in the Muslim world. 
While that may be a difficult pill for some to swallow for emotional or psychological reasons, one need look no further than the insidious role the organization is playing in Syria and the abuses of power and human rights of the government of Egypt.  In the US-NATO sponsored war against the Assad government, the Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as the leading western-sanctioned force, the avant-garde of the imperialist assault.  While, in Egypt, President Morsi and the Brotherhood government seek to destroy what had been, little more than a year ago, the promise of the revolution.
Muslim Brotherhood in Syria
This week’s establishment of the Supreme Military Command, in charge of all military aid and coordination to the rebels, demonstrates unequivocally the leadership role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the drive for regime change in Syria.  As Reuters reported, “The unified command includes many with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and to Salafists…it excludes the most senior officers who have defected from Assad’s military.”[1] This command structure, formed at the behest and under the sponsorship of the US, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey among others, does not simply include members of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is, in fact, dominated by them.  Is it possible that the Western imperial powers simply did not notice that the group they were forming was comprised of these elements?  To suggest so would be to accuse some of the leading “statesmen” of the world (Hillary Clinton, William Hague, Laurent Fabius, Ahmet Davutoglu, etc.) of being stupid.  Alas, they are not so.  Instead, these individuals have collaborated to create a Muslim Brotherhood proxy force in Syria, one that can be controlled and depended on to do the bidding of the West.

However, it is not enough to say that the Muslim Brotherhood is heading this new military structure, for that would be to imply that they have not been playing a critical role all along.  Rather, the organization has been central to the destabilization of Syria since the beginning of the armed conflict.  The Syrian National Council, originally the face of the Western-backed “opposition” was itself dominated behind the scenes by the Muslim Brotherhood. As former Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadreddine stated regarding the SNC, “We chose this face, accepted by the West…We nominated [former SNC head Burhan] Ghalioun as a front for national action. We are not moving now as the Brotherhood but as part of a front that includes all currents.”[2] Essentially then, we see that the organization has, from the very beginning, maintained a large degree of control of the foreign-based opposition, as distinctly different from the indigenous opposition of the National Coordinating Councils and other groups.  The Muslim Brotherhood, an international political and paramilitary machine, has come to lead the battle against Assad government.
In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood has provided many forms of leadership and assistance to the foreign-based, foreign-backed opposition beyond simply direct leadership. From providing diplomatic and political cover, to on-the-ground tactical support such as weapons smuggling, fighter recruitment, and other necessary responsibilities, the organization has come to permeate every aspect of what we in the West conveniently refer to as the “rebels”.
As early as May 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the center of the organization, was already providing the political and diplomatic support the rebels needed to topple the Assad regime.  As they were poised to win the Egyptian elections, the Brotherhood was busy making public comments about the need for Western military intervention in Syria.  The organization’s spokesman, Mahmoud Ghozlan stated, “The Muslim Brotherhood calls on Arab, Islamic, and international governments to intervene…to bring down the [Assad] regime.”[3] This brazen public statement flies in the face of all arguments which claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is somehow anti-imperialist, that they stand in opposition to Western dominance of the Arab world.  On the contrary, though they may posture themselves as opposing the West, they are, in fact, tools of the imperial powers used to destroy independent nations which stand in opposition to US hegemony in the Middle East.
This political and diplomatic backing is merely one aspect of the Brotherhood’s involvement in the destruction of Syria.  As the New York Times reported in June of 2012, “CIA officers are operating secretly in Southern Turkey helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms…by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood.”[4] The use of the Muslim Brotherhood to smuggle arms to the rebels in Syria should come as no surprise considering the fact that it is the Sunni monarchies of the region (Saudi Arabia and Qatar primarily) who have been the most vociferous voices championing regime change in Syria by any means necessary.  The relationship between these monarchies and the Muslim Brotherhood is self-evident: they share similar religious convictions and are avowed enemies of all forms of Shiism.  Moreover, they have been part and parcel of the system of US hegemony that has kept the entire region under its vice grip for decades.
Many have argued in the past that, though they share identical ideologies and “brand”, the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood is somehow independent of the Muslim Brotherhood proper.  This preposterous claim is countered by the simple fact that every public position the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has taken has been in direct alignment with the public statements from Cairo.  As the Carnegie Middle East Center’s article The Muslim Brotherhood in Syriademonstrates, Since the beginning of the revolution, the Brotherhood has maintained that foreign intervention is the only possible solution to the crisis in Syria. In October 2011, it also called on Turkey to intervene and establish protected humanitarian zones in Turkish territory.”[5] When two entities bear the same name, have the same sponsors, and take the same positions, it is an exercise in willful ignorance to argue that they are somehow not the same entity or, as is more accurate, taking orders from the same masters. But who are these masters?
The Powers Behind the Muslim Brotherhood
In examining the utterly insidious role that the Muslim Brotherhood is playing in Syria, one must begin with an understanding of the historical relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and Western imperialism.  The organization was founded by Hassan al-Banna in 1928 with the intention of reestablishing a purer form of Islam as had existed centuries before.  However, this was merely the religious veneer that was created to mask the political intentions of the organization.  As explained in the Mother Jones article entitled What is the Muslim Brotherhood and Will It Take Over Egypt?, the author explains that, “The Muslim Brotherhood served as a battering ram against nationalists and communists, despite the Brothers’ Islam-based anti-imperialism, the group often ended up making common cause with the colonial British.  It functioned as an intelligence agency, infiltrating left-wing and nationalist groups.”[6] This indisputable fact, that the Muslim Brotherhood functioned, even its early days, as a de facto arm of Western intelligence, is critical to understanding its development and current political power.
However, there are those who argue that, despite this “coincidence” of objectives and agendas, the Muslim Brotherhood could never be tied directly to the intelligence community.  However, as Robert Dreyfuss, author of the Mother Jones article clearly points out, there is ample evidence tying the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood directly to the CIA:
By then [1954], the group’s chief international organizer and best-known official was Said Ramadan, the son-in-law of Hassan al-Banna. Ramadan had come to the attention of both the CIA and MI-6, the British intelligence service. In researching my book … I came across an unusual photograph that showed Ramadan with President Eisenhower in the Oval Office. By then, or soon after, Ramadan had likely been recruited as a CIA agent. Wall Street Journal reporter Ian Johnson has since documented the close ties between Ramadan and various Western intelligence services … Johnson writes: ‘By the end of the decade, the CIA was overtly backing Ramadan.’”[7]
The fact that the central figure in the international organization was a known CIA agent corroborates the assertions made by countless analysts and investigators that the Brotherhood was used as a weapon against Nasser and, in fact, all Arab socialist leaders who at that time were part of a rising tide of Arab nationalism which sought, as its ultimate goal, independence from Western imperial domination.
In order to fully grasp just how the Brotherhood developed into the organization we know today, one must understand the relationship between it and the royal family of Saudi Arabia.  In fact, the Saudis have been the key financiers of the Brotherhood for decades for the same reasons that the United States and the Western powers needed them: opposition to Arab nationalism and the growing “insolence” of Shiite states.  Dreyfuss writes, “From its early days, the Brotherhood was financed generously by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which appreciated its ultra-conservative politics and its virulent hatred of Arab communists.”[8] Essentially, as the United States began to exert its post-war might throughout the region, the Muslim Brotherhood was there to be a willing beneficiary and humble servant sowing the seeds of hatred between Sunni and Shia, espousing a hate-filled Salafist ideology that preached conflict and inescapable war between the branches of Islam.  Naturally, all to the benefit of Western powers who cared little for the ideology and more about the money and resources.
A Tool of the Western Powers Today?
It is often argued that, though the historical record unequivocally shows the Brotherhood as intimately connected to Western intelligence, somehow the organization has changed, that it has become a peaceful force for political progress in the Arab world.  As recent events in Egypt have shown, nothing could be further from the truth.  With the undemocratic attempted power grab by Egyptian President Morsi, the scaling back of civil liberties, the rights of women, and religious and ethnic minorities, the Muslim Brotherhood has shown itself to be little more than a reactionary political force parading itself as a form of “progress”.
If one had any doubts as to the true intentions and motivations of the Muslim Brotherhood once in power in Egypt, one needed look no further than its position on the institutions of global finance capital, particularly the International Monetary Fund.  In one of the first decisions taken by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood government, Cairo established that it would, in fact, welcome conditional loans from the IMF[9] to rescue itself from the prospect of a continued economic crisis.  However, as part of the conditions of the loan, Morsi’s government would have to drastically reduce subsidies, regulations, and other “market restrictions” while increasing taxes on the middle class.  Essentially, this meant that the Brotherhood consented to the usual cocktail of austerity medicine that had been administered by the agents of finance capital so many times all over the world.  This, naturally, begged the question: Was this the end of the revolution? Indeed, many in the streets of Cairo are asking themselves this same question.  Or, to put it more accurately, they already know the answer.
In Egypt, as in Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood has made itself into an appendage of the Western imperialist ruling class.  It has dutifully served these interests over the course of decades, though the names, faces, and propaganda have changed over the years.  As we watch the tragic images coming from Syria or the tens of thousands in the streets of Cairo, we must question why it has taken so long for this perfidious organization to be exposed or even understood. The answer is, as usual, because it serves the interests of global capital to keep the rest of the world confused as to who the enemies of progress really are.  By revealing their true nature, the real forces of peace and progress around the world can reject the Muslim Brotherhood and the imperial system in all its overt and covert forms.
Eric Draitser is the founder of  He is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City.  He is a regular contributor to Russia Today, Press TV,, and other media outlets. You can reach him at
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.

Why John McCain Wants to Aid Syrian Terrorists

Why John McCain Wants to Aid Syrian Terrorists

His trip to Syria in support of lung-eating savages

by Justin Raimondo, May 29, 2013

"When John McCain slipped into Syria to meet with Islamist rebels, Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted “best wishes” to his fellow warmonger and claimed “dibs on his office if he doesn’t come back.” Leave it to Sen. Graham, who has been agitating along with McCain for the US to send weapons to the rebels, to joke about the untrustworthiness of the very people he wants to arm. But the rebels’ savagery is no joke: we are, after all, talking about people who eat the lungs of their enemies.

And yet irony doesn’t quite cover it: insanity is more like it. Here is a man who is the Republican party’s voice when it comes to foreign policy, a role he has appropriated due to his intimacy with those who book the Sunday talk shows, and yet when it comes to America’s relationship with the rest of the world his utter and complete ignorance is appalling.

He told us the invasion and occupation of Iraq would be “fairly easy.” He pontificated that the anthrax attacks were delivered by the Iraqis. His preferred policy for Afghanistan: we should “muddle through,” rather than withdraw. When the North Koreans started acting out, he averred we ought to threaten them with “extinction.” And when Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia got into an armed conflict over the breakaway province of South Ossetia, McCain announced “Today, We Are All Georgians” and demanded we go to war with Moscow. He thinks Iran is training Al Qaeda: he also thinks Iraq shares a border with Pakistan.

In short, McCain doesn’t know s%^*t about foreign policy: he has been wrong, wrong, wrong about absolutely everything. So it isn’t merely ironic that he is leading the charge in demanding we intervene in Syria – it’s downright crazy.

What’s puzzling is why anyone is listening to him. And his fellow Senators are certainly paying attention: an overwhelming bipartisan vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the McCain-Menendez bill authorizing aid to the rebels (there were only three dissents).

Most of the other Senators weren’t that impressed with Sen. Paul’s argument: “I don’t think any member of this committee would vote for anything we thought was going to arm al Qaeda,” said Republican rising star Marco Rubio.

Isn’t that what they were saying in the days before our Libyan “allies” murdered the American ambassador to Libya?

“Al Qaeda, unfortunately, is well-armed,” added Menendez. “That is the present reality in Syria.”

Translation: What difference will a few more anti-tank guns make? Which ought to tell us why the New Jersey Democratic Senator isn’t exactly a candidate for a MacArthur “genius” grant.

So what did McCain do in Syria? The military backbone of the opposition is the al-Nusra Front, which has recently pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. Did McCain meet with their commanders – in spite of the fact that they have recently been added to the State Department’s list of officially-designated terrorist organizations? He didn’t say. What we do know about his trip is that he went and listened to their demands that we set up a no fly zone, send them guns and cash, and attack Hezbollah in Lebanon – yes, Lebanon. They want us to widen the war, and naturally Sen. McCain is for that, too. Has there ever been a war he didn’t want to escalate?

His trip was facilitated by the “Syrian Emergency Task Force,” a mysterious group set up by a former Senate staffer, Moustafa Mouaz, which sprang into existence fully-funded and which naturally doesn’t have to register as an agent of a foreign power – since the Foreign Agents Registration Act is only selectively enforced. Mouaz is a former aide to Senator Blanche Lincoln and Rep. Vic Synder, both liberal to centrist Democrats. Here he is cheering on al-Nusra – the official al-Qaeda franchise in Syria – on Twitter. (See also here and here.) The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the “educational” branch of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, lists him on their web site as one of their trusted “experts”: he recently addressed a WINEP conference.

The Israel lobby’s involvement in all this is somewhat obscure, but WINEP has been on the scene providing quotes and rationales for US intervention, and now with the Israeli air strikes and all this talk of Hezbollah propping up a supposedly faltering Assad, it’s clear why: the Israelis want to use this opportunity to take out another of their enemies. They lured us into attacking Iraq, and now they are insisting we go after Iran – but as an appetizer, so to speak, they’re inviting us to first gobble up Syria before partaking of the main course.

The American people are overwhelmingly opposed to US intervention in Syria, including helping the jihadist rebels. But their opinion doesn’t count for much in Washington, D.C., where lobbyists, both foreign and domestic, rule the roost. Murky organizations with dubious ties to foreign groups, like the “Syrian Emergency Task Force,” have more sway than Joe Sixpack, and certainly WINEP, and – standing behind it – AIPAC have the kind of clout that could engineer US intervention in Syria’s vicious civil war.

A hoary coalition of “liberal” interventionists, Syrian exiles, and Israel Firsters is pushing the Obama administration to meet the rebels’ demands: they think we can “vet” the rebels to make sure al-Nusra is left out of the goodies package we’re sending them. This is a fantasy: do these people really think we can navigate the complexities of the Syrian opposition with any certainty? Of course we can’t. Not that Sen. McCain really cares: he hasn’t learned anything from Benghazi, even though he bloviates about it constantly. There we armed the Libyan rebels, and they turned those very same weapons on us – killing our Ambassador and three others.

Finally, it may be initially puzzling to contemplate the support for aiding the rebels coming from supposedly staunch opponents of “terrorism,” such as McCain and Graham. But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense: those two don’t care so much about fighting jihadists as they do about effecting regime-change throughout the Middle East. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran – all are in the War Party’s sights, and the Two Amigos are leading the charge. Forget about the “war on terrorism” – that was a cover story from the very beginning. The real story of American foreign policy in the new millennium is all about regime change."

NSA, CIA, FBI, Mossad, Aman, and Google, Microsoft, FaceBook, Yahoo, and others, perfect for illegal spying together....

Friday, May 18, 2012

NSA, CIA, FBI, Mossad, Aman, and Google, Microsoft, FaceBook, Yahoo, and others, perfect for illegal spying together....

by Joe Wolverton, II

Last the week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) aimed at discovering the content of all electronic correspondence between Google and the National Security Agency (NSA).

The source of the controversy was a "highly sophisticated and targeted” cyber attack targeting Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists in 2010.

To counter the Chinese government’s hacking of its customers’ accounts, Google changed Gmail’s privacy settings to automatically encrypt all traffic to and from its servers.

In the days following the attacks, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, warned that attacks prompted the Internet behemoth to "review the feasibility of our business operations in China." Google, continued Drummond, was "no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all."

In a blog post, Drummond also wrote that other companies might have been targeted and that he was “working with the relevant U.S. authorities.” It’s the identity of these American “authorities” and the extent of their involvement in the Google attacks that prompted EPIC’s filing of an FOIA petition.

In the petition, EPIC seeks copies of all communications between the NSA and Google regarding the latter’s efforts at beefing up its cybersecurity. The NSA challenged EPIC’s request by submitting a Glomar Response. In such a maneuver, the entity that is the subject of the FOIA inquiry “neither confirms nor denies” the existence of the material requested.

Named for a ship built by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to covertly recover a sunken Soviet submarine, a Glomar Response typically is given in two scenarios. First, where a refusal to forward the documents would have the effect of admitting that they actually exist, thus compromising national security. Second, law enforcement agencies will give a Glomar Response when producing the requested information would stigmatize a person named in the documents being sought.

In defense of its Glomar parry, the NSA invoked Exemption 3 of FOIA and Section 6 of the National Security Agency Act, which reads in relevant part:

[N]othing in this Act or any other law…shall be construed to require the disclosure of the organization or any function of the National Security Agency, or any information with respect to the activities thereof, or of the names, titles, salaries, or number of the persons employed by such agency.

In a 12-page decision, Circuit Court Judge Janice Brown, a George W. Bush appointee, accepted the Glomar Response and granted summary judgment for the NSA. The primary question before the three-judge panel was whether any of the records requested by EPIC would expose “the organization or any function” of the NSA.

Curiously, the judges held (quoting an earlier decision) that “[u]ltimately, an agency’s justification for invoking a FOIA exemption is sufficient if it appears ‘logical’ or ‘plausible’” and that “NSA need not make a specific showing of potential harm to national security in order to justify withholding information under Section 6, because 'Congress has already, in enacting the statute, decided that disclosure of NSA activities is potentially harmful.'"

Such broad interpretations of the NSA Act coupled with a crippling deference to Congress guarantee that the NSA will continue to enjoy the protection of judicial cover fire for all their clandestine schemes.

Given this attitude, then, it is not surprising that the Court held that were it to overturn the lower court’s ruling and authorize access to the NSA-Google correspondence, EPIC would be privy to information the NSA avers would “pose a threat to U.S. Government information systems.” Thus, the Court affirmed, “NSA may take action against the threat”; in this case, that means to refuse to hand over the records requested by EPIC in its FOIA petition.

Later in the opinion, Judge Brown wrote that were she and her colleagues to overturn the District Court’s ruling in favor of the NSA, then other private entities “might hesitate or decline to contact the agency, thereby hindering its Information Assurance mission.”

In defense of its position, EPIC argues that there is nothing secret about the collaboration between Google and the NSA as it was “widely reported in the national media and acknowledged by the former director of the NSA.”

In a footnote, the Court wrote in dictum that “NSA has never officially acknowledged a collaborative relationship with Google, and the national media are not capable of "waiving NSA’s statutory authority to protect information related to its functions and activities.”

The real question — and undoubtedly the true impetus behind the EPIC FOIA request — was whether the NSA was using Google as an unofficial arm of the spy organization, employing its vast resources and customer accounts to conduct warrantless (thus illegal) monitoring of email messages.

When this issue was addressed in the lower court’s decision handed down by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, the judge held that it didn’t matter whether Google was spying for the NSA and even if it was, Americans had no right to know.

Furthermore, when reading between the lines of Judge Leon’s decision, when it comes to pulling back the veil of secrecy shrouding the surreptitious activities of the NSA, national security concerns trump the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment, and the right of Americans to know whether their own government is violating their civil rights.

Flush from this favorable decision, the NSA is attempting to keep former employees from recovering computers seized by the government agency in 2007.

Five NSA whistleblowers — Thomas Drake, Bill Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe, Edward Loomis, and Diane Roark — were subjected to persecution and prosecution in response to their attempts to expose government abuse and corruption.

The Government Accountability Project chronicles the maltreatment of the five at the hands of the federal government:

Binney had a gun pointed to his head as he stepped out of the shower. Drake has the dubious distinction of being the fourth person in U.S. history (and first by the Obama administration) indicted under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information.

Rather than just return the equipment, NSA dragged its feet, forcing the five to file a lawsuit to recoup their property.

NSA answered that it couldn’t just hand over the computers because agents were busy scouring the hard drives for classified data and that such an effort was an “arduous process.”

Furthermore, attorneys for the NSA argued that the seized computers "cannot lawfully be returned." NSA's Deputy Chief of Staff for Signals Intelligence claimed that the information saved on even one of the hard drives could "cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security."

To the contrary, Jesselyn Radack of the nonprofit Government Accountability Project responds that "if the unreturned property contained such damning information, the Justice Department would have used it against Drake at trial, since most of the 'evidence' the government tried to introduce against him was deemed to be unclassified and caused their case to crumble."

Weary of NSA dilatory tactics and laughable excuses, the Court ordered the NSA to answer the lawsuit. With hubris typical of an agency of the federal government, the NSA filed a motion to dismiss, arguing in its brief that all the equipment still held by the NSA is classified.

In an interview conducted by a Huffington Post Politics blogger, Thomas Drake offered the following description of NSA and the cultivation of the soil of secrecy in which it grows and thrives:

You have to remember, NSA is an institution, and it preserves its integrity before anything else. Rule number one. It's pathological. It's what I call the deep, dark side of this culture, one that has rarely been discussed. Everything is secret.

NSA is employing Google to spy on Americans (or anyone for that matter), one wonders how dark, how deep, and how wide the conspiracy between the Zioconned US federal government’s spy apparatus and giant Internet companies extends...., and when they can't do it locally in the Zioconned USA, it is subcontracted to MOSSAD, AMAN and others in IsraHell, and fed back into the Zioconned USA security apparatus back home....and that goes back for decades....


Al Jazeera Picks Up Hotel Tab for Muslim Brotherhood Leader

I don’t know why Qatar couldn’t just directly pay for the rooms instead of routing it through Al Jazeera, which is its toy anyway. All this does is further delegitimize Al Jazeera as a media outlet and the Muslim Brotherhood as a Qatari puppet.

Following the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi in July, many of the Islamist organization’s high ranking officials fled to Qatar, where they are now being hosted by Al Jazeera, according to the Washington Post.
Several of the [Brotherhood’s] exiles are living temporarily in hotel suites paid for by Qatar’s state-run Arabic satellite network Al Jazeera—and it is in those suites and hotel lobbies that the future of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and, more broadly, the strategy and ideology of political Islam in the country may well be charted,” the Post reported Wednesday.
Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera America officials have kept quiet following the report, declining to respond to multiple requests for comment from the Washington Free Beacon. 
“It’s a channel dedicated to the Muslim Brotherhood,” said terrorism expert and Foundation for Defense of Democracies scholar Khairi Abaza. “They fund the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s their anchor. So this is natural.”

Yes it is. It’s just not subtle. But Qatar is apparently doubling down.


Syria war sparks Turkish Alawite anxiety

Summary: The Syrian war has led Turkey’s Arab Alawites to embrace their Alawite and Arab identity.
Author Fehim Ta┼čtekin - February 19, 2014

Ahmet, 80, is an Arab Alawite from the Turkish border province of Hatay. He used to be a truck driver. His family’s story is typical of the many clans that the Turkish-Syrian border cut in two like apples decades ago. Here is how he tells his story: “My grandfather Yusuf and his brother Sahin were dispatched to Yemen to fight in Ottoman ranks. Both defected from the army, unaware of each other. Grandpa Yusuf had been wounded when he defected. The brothers met in Syria by pure chance. Sahin was ready to carry his elder brother on his back all the way back to Antakya. Grandpa Yusuf, however, told his brother 'to go alone and save himself' as he would probably not survive. Sahin was haunted by a guilty conscience for having left his brother behind. Even on his deathbed, he uttered his brother’s name. Years later, a man from Syria came to the village, saying he had come to find relatives from the Haddur clan. He said he was Yusuf’s son. We couldn’t contact him again after he left.” Ahmet’s grandson chimes in: “Please, don’t mention our surname. Al-Qaeda people are around in Antakya, the situation is critical. We don’t want to become a target as a family.”

The Syrian crisis has revived bonds between Syria and Hatay, which joined Turkey through a referendum in 1939. As the bloodshed in Syria escalated, divided families began to look for each other. The turmoil has hurt not only the Alawites in Hatay’s districts of Antakya and Samandag but also Sunnis in the third district, Reyhanli, as well as Sunni Arabs in Kilis and Akcakale along the border and Kurds in Mursitpinar, Ceylanpinar and Nusaybin further to the east.

Mourning for Maan

The Feb. 9 massacre in the Alawite village of Maan near Hama, perpetrated by al-Qaeda and Islamic Front groups, became the latest incident to cut Hatay’s Alawites to the bone. Thirty-two people from the Haddur clan alone were slaughtered, a source from Damascus told Al-Monitor. The victims of the “jihadists,” who came from Soran and Merek, were mostly women and children, while the rest were young men from the village’s “popular defense unit.” Relatives of the dead set up mourning tents in the town of Mahrusi and in Homs. According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, half of the 40 victims in Maan were civilians, while the other half were militiamen. Syrian state television put the death toll at 61 or 62.

Most residents in the Turkish village of Hancagiz near Samandag belong to the Haddur clan. Yet, they are anxious to speak of their kinship bonds and even to grieve openly, fearful of becoming the target of fanatic groups fighting with sectarian motives in Syria. But Alawites did show their indignation over Maan at protests in Hatay, Mersin, Istanbul and other cities, just as they did after last year’s massacre in Latakia, which figured also in the Human Rights Watch report.

Build-up of anxiety

Every news report of a fresh massacre erodes the fabric of Hatay, an area of traditional peace and fraternity, where different religions, races and sects share a common civilization. Sunnis and Alevis, Muslims and Christians continue to smile cordially at each other, but an increasing number of people are now living with “a pigeon’s uneasiness.” This is only natural since the social mix in Hatay and especially its central district Antakya is virtually a mirror image of Syria. The suffering in Syria is naturally reverberating there.

Hasan Sivri, a university student from Antakya who closely observes developments at the border and occasionally publishes online comments, spoke to Al-Monitor about how the Syrian civil war affects Arab Alawites in the region. “The Turkish government’s sectarian foreign policy increased further the existing sensitivities of Arab Alawites. Videos of Syrian rebels threatening Alawites were put into circulation from military camps in Hatay,” he said. “Rumors spread quickly of people being threatened right in the street that they were 'next in line.' Radical opposition members were allowed to move around freely, strengthening the people’s perception that 'we are next in line.' One day we would come across militants in the streets and the next day we would recognize them in a video targeting Alawites and other minorities, shot in Syria. This amplified the indignation.”

Mehmet Sut, a businessman and politician from Hatay, agrees that the Syrian crisis has rekindled kinship and sectarian bonds. “No one’s sectarian and religious identity would have stood out here before the war. No one would care about Alevism. In Syria, people would describe themselves as Syrians when asked whether they were Alawites or Sunnis. I wish people in Turkey could answer in the same fashion,” Sut told Al-Monitor. “The war awoke sectarian sentiments. My old friends are mostly Sunni, but now I’ve started to wonder, 'How much we can trust them?' We never quarrel with each other. The Sunnis here are civilized people. The prime minister’s words, for instance, irked the Sunnis as well. Certain quarters had embarked on a very dirty war, seeking to start an ethnic and sectarian conflict. But thanks to the common sense of the local people, we overcame the tensions. It is no coincidence that Alawites were singled out as the perpetrators in the Reyhanli attack. That was a conspiracy. We strongly condemned it, Sunnis and Alawites together.”

As the nature of the Syrian crisis changed, the sentiment of polarization stopped short of spilling over to the streets. As Sivri says, “The Syrian crisis had initially affected neighborhood ties between [ethnic] Arabs and Turks, between Alawites and Sunnis. But the free movement of al-Qaeda-linked militants in the streets, the killing of 52 people in the Reyhanli bombing on May 11, 2013, and the economic crisis altered the stance of the Turks as well.”

Pro-Assad sentiments emerge

Hatay’s century-old culture of cohabitation has prevented the tensions from developing into a sectarian conflict. Yet, perceptions have inevitably changed. Turkey continues to support the opposition through its “open border” policy. Groups linked with Turkey have even targeted Alawite villages near Latakia. This has essentially produced two effects. First, some quarters have started to question how genuine their integration is with the Turkish state. Second, similarly to Syrian Alawites who identify their fate with the fate of President Bashar al-Assad, local Alawites have become more inclined to defend and “exonerate” the Syrian regime. The pro-Assad chants at the “Scream for Peace” culture festival in Yesilpinar in August 2012 illustrated the drift of people who had long felt no bond with the Syrian regime.

The Arab Alawites voiced their first major reaction to the Syrian turmoil on Sept. 1, 2012, on the occasion of Peace Day. Sadly, pro-government media depicted the protests as an “alliance with Baath [Party] in Antakya,” an attitude that fanned prejudices against Alawites among supporters of the government’s Syria policy. Another peace rally, held in Antakya on Sept. 16, 2012, was broken up by heavy-handed police. Similar scenes were repeated on Peace Day the following year.

The Gezi effect

Arabic slogans and Syrian flags drew attention at the protests held almost nightly in Antakya in support of the Gezi Park demonstrations last year. The protests focused on the government’s sectarian tilt and especially Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s provocative statements. The five protesters killed in the Gezi protests were all Alawites (including ethnic Turkish Alevis) and three of them were from Antakya. This exposed further the crack the Syrian crisis had opened.

Meanwhile, reports of Antakya Alawites joining the Popular Defense Units in Syria fuelled antagonism in Sunni quarters. According to Sut, the said fighters are Alawites who fled Turkey and settled in Syria two or three decades ago because of links to leftist organizations. “To speak of people who went [to fight in Syria] from Antakya is misleading,” he said.

Awakening of Arab and Alawite identities

Sivri described to Al-Monitor the inner torments of Alawites, which few would openly discuss. “As the Syrian crisis unfolded, the state turned a deaf ear to the Alawites' cries. The gendarmerie would tell villagers to 'protect themselves against theft and other incidents.' As a result, Alawites began to question their relationship with the state. Virtually assimilated by now, Arab Alawites began to ask, 'Are we Turks or Arabs?' This is especially true for Arab students outside the region,” Sivri said. “We have started to embrace our culture, which they tried to obliterate over the past 80 years, especially our Arabic mother tongue. We now brandish banners in Arabic at demonstrations in cities outside the region. Friends in Istanbul, for instance, organized Arabic-language theater plays. The interest in Arabic language courses and critical history research is on the rise. During this process, we saw that Arab Christians had identical feelings and experiences. They, too, have relatives across the border, who are similarly being massacred because of their faith.”

The final word is up to Mehmet Ali Ediboglu, a parliament member for Hatay from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP): “We grieve after every news of bloodshed, no matter which side it comes from. We condemn all massacres, regardless who perpetrates them. We want the bloodshed to end and peace be attained in the shortest possible time.”

McCain screams at Syrian Christian leaders in meeting

By Pamela Geller

John McCain continues to ignore the presence of al Qaeda, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood among the opposition in Syria, and instead lashes out against anyone who speaks of this monstrous reality.

Christians are being slaughtered by McCain’s Syrian buddies, and he has a hissy fit against Christian Syrian leaders. A tantrum.

Who can forget the picture of McCain in his secret visit to Syria, showing him with jihad kidnappers? It would be funny if the bodies weren’t piled so high.

Senator McCain went to Syria to meet with the opposition. The Free Syrian Army and Al Nusrah, the two main armed factions of the Syrian resistance, are jihadist groups run by the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda (here).

“McCain Knows Less About the Syrian Civil War than You Do,” Daniel Greenfield

McCain stands in front of Nour, center, during his recent visit to Syria. (Razan Shalab AlSham/Syrian Emergency Task Force/HO)
One would think that would have given the ornery old fool great pause, but that would have been the reaction of a rational man. Despite his jihad photo op, McCain dug in ever more deeply when he hired an al Qaeda advisor (who had been previously fired for lying about her background.

Now he is beating up Syrian Christian leaders.

“GOP Senator Apologizes for McCain Tantrum at Syrian Christian Leader Meeting,” Judicial Watch, February 6, 2014

Hell-bent on arming opposition forces in Syria—despite strong evidence that they’re run by Islamic terrorists—John McCain displayed behavior unbecoming of a United States Senator during a recent meeting with Syrian Christian leaders touring Capitol Hill.GOP Senator Apologizes for McCain Tantrum at Syrian Christian Leader Meeting

The delegation of Syrian clergy came to Washington to raise awareness among lawmakers of the growing crisis among the region’s minority Christian community. Christians make up about 10% of the Syrian population and they are being targeted and ruthlessly murdered by radical elements of the rebel forces, according to the visiting church officials. They say the media and human rights groups in the west have been largely silent on the ordeal of the Christians in Syria.

A number of churches have been destroyed or burned, children were killed when rebels fired mortar rockets at an Armenian Christian school in Damascus and countless others have been abducted by Islamic fighters, the Syrian delegation reveals in a statement published by the research group, Westminster Institute, that brought them to Washington. Eleven nuns have also been abducted and are still in captivity and two bishops are still missing after getting kidnapped during a humanitarian mission.

But Senator McCain, an Arizona Republican, evidently doesn’t want to hear negative stories about the rebels he’s working to arm. So he stormed out of a closed-door meeting with the Syrian clergy officials last week. Held in the Senate Arms Services Committee meeting room, the reunion also included senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Graham is a Republican and the rest are Democrats.

McCain marched into the committee room yelling, according to a high-level source that attended the meeting, and quickly stormed out. “He was incredibly rude,” the source told Judicial Watch “because he didn’t think the Syrian church leaders should even be allowed in the room.” Following the shameful tantrum McCain reentered the room and sat briefly but refused to make eye contact with the participants, instead ignoring them by looking down at what appeared to be random papers.

The outburst was so embarrassing that Senator Graham, also an advocate of U.S. military intervention in Syria, apologized for McCain’s disturbing outburst. “Graham actually apologized to the group for McCain’s behavior,” according to the source, who sat through the entire meeting. “It was truly unbelievable.”

Not really, for those familiar with McCain’s history on this matter. The veteran lawmaker is enamored with a controversial young “Syria expert,” Elizabeth O’Bagy, who has managed to convince him as well as the president and secretary of state that Syrian rebels are mostly moderate and not terrorists. While persuading the U.S. of this, O’Bagy concealed that she was a political director for the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a group that advocates for Syria’s rebels from Washington D.C.

Before getting exposed by conservative media outlets, O’Bagy claimed to be an objective analyst at a Washington D.C. think-tank that studies military affairs when in fact she had a “reputation as the leading expert on the armed opposition in the Syrian revolution,” according to SETF. In September O’Bagy was abruptly fired from the think-tank for padding her resume and McCain graciously hired her. “Elizabeth is a talented researcher, and I have been very impressed by her knowledge and analysis in multiple briefings over the last year,” McCain said in a statement to the political news publication that broke the story in late September.

Besides the fact that a Syrian Islamist group is essentially steering U.S. policy, a number of domestic and international media outlets have confirmed that terrorists—mainly Al Qaeda—are running opposition forces in Syria. For instance the New York Times published apiece that reveals Islamist rebels—including the most extreme groups in the notorious Al Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda-aligned force—are running the show in Syria. “The Islamist character of the opposition reflects the main constituency of the rebellion,” the story says. “Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.”

Incredibly, last month an international news agency reported that Congress secretly approved U.S. weapons flow to what officials describe as “moderate” Syrian rebel factions. The White House refused to comment on the back-door operation, but the story cites U.S. and European officials who say the weapons deliveries have been funded by the U.S. Congress, in votes behind closed doors, through the end of government fiscal year 2014.